Converge International Leading way on Omnichannel Telehealth

Converge International Leading way on Omnichannel Telehealth

Great people, rather than just good technology, is what makes Converge a telehealth market leader, says CIO Fergus Porter

Converge International is a leading provider of employee wellbeing services, organisational development, and workplace training in Australia and New Zealand. 

Founded in 1960, it offers a range of services – including counselling, coaching, mediation, and training that are aimed at enhancing wellbeing, resilience, and productivity in the workplace.

The company is a trusted partner for organisations seeking to cultivate a thriving workplace environment, and it has emerged as a frontrunner in delivering comprehensive employee assistance programs, organisational development solutions, and workplace training. 

“We recognise that the wellbeing and resilience of individuals directly impact organisational success,” says Converge International CIO, Fergus Porter

“Our mission is to empower individuals to overcome challenges, unlock their potential and thrive in both their personal and professional lives.”

To this end, Converge International supports employees in every way it can, whether this is helping them navigate personal struggles, manage workplace stress, or improve their leadership skills.

The company believes that by investing in the holistic development of individuals it can “create healthier, happier, and more engaged workplaces where everyone can thrive”.

Technology helping meet wellbeing needs

Melbourne-based Converge starts by understanding the issues, through a process of assessment that is often tech-driven. It then helps its customers design a program that best meets the well-being needs of its people.

Porter has a team of 16, and the company employs a total of 500 people, and draws from a pool of an additional 1,200 consultants.

Technology is driving “a great amount of change in how we work and how we deliver our services”, says Porter. “It’s helping our people provide care anytime and anywhere.” 

Covid proved a catalyst here. Melbourne was the most locked-down city in the world during the pandemic, enduring a total of 266 days of lockdown.

“In order for our business to work we had to move our call centre into people's homes,” says Porter. “I know most other businesses also had to do this but we were also dealing with people who were traumatised, and at the same time we were having to deal with this huge change ourselves.”

He adds:” Covid boosted our confidence that omnichannel healthcare was the future, and it enabled us to put in place processes that we now use daily.”

To this end Converge has shifted from simply facilitating traditional face-to-face meetings with clinicians to more and more telehealth, and has also invested in a platform that enables access to real-time data. This is able to generate highly personalised science-based insights for employees and helps them take care of their own mental wellbeing. 

“We've focused on technologies that make it easier for people to contact us, utilise our services, and get the outcomes that they need,” says Porter. 

Industry-first intelligent booking system 

An example of this is an industry-first online booking service the company recently launched

“You might think, ‘So what? It’s just a booking service?’”, says Porter, with a theatrical shrug. “But it's not as simple as that, because every person is different. They live in different locations and have different needs for interacting with us, such as video, voice, text or face-to-face. They may also have personal preferences.”

It might be, he goes on to explain, that a person only wants to see somebody of the same gender, or who is used to dealing with LGBTQI+ issues, or who is First Nations. 

The booking service also has to consider time zones, because Australia is a vast country, and in dealing with doctors and consultants – who run multiple diaries using different modalities in different locations – then the service’s matching algorithm “has to be robust”.

“We can book-in people in moments now,” he says. “Bang, and it's done. Once it was a process that could take up to 10 minutes. That might not sound like a lot but when you're dealing with people who are under duress or stress, then this matters greatly.”

That duress might be caused by anything from workplace stress to domestic violence, sickness and the death of a co-worker in the line of duty.

“We’ve also implemented things like self-service through an omnichannel customer experience platform,” says Porter. “This means we provide a more personal service, so that when somebody calls we know who they are and if they've already registered with us. 

‘Taking people with us’ on change-project

Enterprise-level change projects are notoriously difficult, with the failure rate believed to be around 70%, but Converge has managed to succeed here where many others have not.

“We were able to take our people with us as we’ve changed, evolved and adapted,” says Porter.

He adds: “Healthcare is all about caring for people, and the keyword here is ‘people’. Building great solutions is one thing but getting people to use them is another. 

“It's not like building an app for a bank or an airline, where you are in a race to beat your competitors to market with some flashy functionality. Having the best and coolest tech means nothing if your people don't value it.” 

This, he says, is where Converge has enjoyed success.

“We designed everything to bring our stakeholders along on the journey. From the start, we listened, fed back, listened again, fed back again, and we prototyped early to aid this feedback loop.

“You have to set expectations. You can’t just charge in and come back to people when you’re done. Our people got to see the changes that we were developing every week, and they got to provide lots of feedback. This gave them ownership in the outcome, rather than them feeling that it was something that was being done to them.”

Porter also points out that something that works in the company’s favour is that in our industry “people are by nature very resilient”.

“Everything always comes back to people,” he adds. It’s not the technology that makes us successful, but having the right people. 

“When I look back at earlier parts of my career, in finance, telco and engineering, it was thought that if you throw enough money at a problem then you'll solve it. But that is simply not true. Only when you throw the right people at a problem will you solve it.”

Partner companies vital to Converge success

And not just its own people either, but those of important partner companies who continue to help Converge move from its brick-and-mortar EAP model to an omnichannel employee wellbeing service.

One of these partners is Amazon Web Services (AWS).

‘We're now entirely cloud-based,” says Porter, “and AWS is our key partner there.” 

He adds: “We migrated away from on-premises providers to AWS, and they have been on-point with everything we needed. Our customer engagement platform is fully hosted within AWS, and this gives us the ability to bring our text, voice and email into a centralised contact management solution in our service centre.” 

Porter says AWS has been “instrumental”, both in helping it implement and scale the cloud technologies it uses. 

“AWS is incredibly helpful,” Porter says. “It invests heavily in customer satisfaction.”

Another of its partners is our Ukraine-based development partner, N-IX. 

“They provide highly skilled people, such as web app developers, testers, automation experts,” says Porter. “They bring to us the hi-tech end of the business.  So if we have a problem with integration security, for example, they're able to provide the right people and ideas to bear in a timely manner.”

A third key partner is low-code Pega automation specialists, Simplimate, whose experts are integrated into Converge’s team.

“It’s like they work for Converge, and they manage the offshore team for us,” he explains. “The great thing about this is they've got a deep heritage with that offshore team so that nothing's lost in translation, because they take responsibility for the outcome.”

For Porter, Converge’s fruitful relationships with its technology partners is proof positive that what a business needs most in order to succeed are good people, not just good technology.

“People are what make technology projects successful,” he says,. Technology's the easy bit, but if you get the people wrong then the technology's going to fail.” 

Quality people make a quality business

Drawing an analogy with quality tradespeople building a house, Porter points out that if you get the right builder, plumber, plasterer, decorator and electrician together “then the house is going to be sturdy”. 

“But if you get a bunch of cowboy builders then it'll be rubbish,” he adds. “And that is the difference between a successful project in technology and the one that's doomed to failure.” 

Porter says the same principle goes for a company’s own people as well: “You need a mix of people who are focused on your organisation and also people with industry experience, who are the best in their field. 

“If you have this then your job becomes easy. I love working with good people, because this is what allows trust to flourish, and trust is a key thing. Good people simply need pointing in the right direction; you can trust that their talent and judgement will get the job done.”

With the right people already in place, the future looks bright for Converge International, Porter feels, and says omnichannel will figure large in its plans.

“Much of what we do going forward will be expanding our omnichannel offerings – portals, portals and more portals,” he says. “We've done most of the foundation work, particularly in migrating to the cloud and in stabilising our systems on AWS.”

He adds: “From here, it's about providing enhanced services to our consultant base, our customer base, and to those who use our services. We’ll be offering a new customer portal, a new consultant portal and enhanced client self-service. In short, we’ll be easier to work with, and it will be easier to consume our services.

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